Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Simon & Garfunkel & Philosophy (Part 1 - "The Boxer")

This is my somewhat amateurish attempt at a post that channels those (insert popular TV program or film here) & Philosophy books. You know, the ones where they talk about the Matrix and namedrop Foucault here and there.

The Boxer

I am just a poor boy 
Though my story's seldom told 
I have squandered my resistance 
For a pocket full of mumbles such are promises 
All lies and jests 
Still a man hears what he wants to hear 
And disregards the rest

First stanza - obvious references to class struggle and media representation. Other than maybe Rosanne and The Wire, the poor are hardly ever depicted on television - their story is seldom told. Or, if it is told through a news vehicle, many would question the authenticity of the description, coming as it does from a largely corporate-owned entity. The problem of confirmation bias is hinted at with the line "a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest," a problem which of course is very prevalent when discussing current events. 

Asking only workman's wages 

I come looking for a job 
But I get no offers, 
Just a come-on from the whores on Seventh Avenue 
I do declare, there were times when I was so lonesome 
I took some comfort there 

Can't help but think of Taxi Driver with this stanza. That film is so packed full of great, existential moments - channeling the loneliness and angst that comes with living in such a dense, bustling city (pre and post Giuliani, thank you very much.) 

In the clearing stands a boxer 
And a fighter by his trade 
And he carries the reminders 
Of ev'ry glove that layed him down 
Or cut him till he cried out 
In his anger and his shame 
"I am leaving, I am leaving" 
But the fighter still remains 

I see the Existentialism here too - wanting to leave, carrying the reminders of failure - possibly facing death or embracing it as part of this fighter persona - very Heideggerian. The fighter still remaining as an essence, or a performance- despite wanting to abandon the trade can be read as a variation on Sartre's bad faith concept, or a nature/nurture meditation. Are there natural born fighters? Evolutionary psychologists would probably argue that humans have developed this fighting/resourceful spirit as a product of evolution, though studies have also shown that cooperation is an important aspect as well. What does it take to be a fighter - a glove, a working class background, a pair of gray sweats and a raw-egg breakfast? Living authentically, if such a thing were possible, brings with it many a quandary. 

Lie la lie ...

Lie la Lie indeed - this can refer to a lot of things. Lies produced by spin in the media? The lie of the Horatio Alger A.S.S (American Success Story)? Baudrillardian simulacra? Take your pick.

Please feel free to share your thoughts!